Amending the Constitution

There shall be a mechanism to amend the UK Constitution.  Some of the options of amending it include the following voting methods:

1.  Either 2/3, ¾, etc… of the UK population as a whole; or

2.  Either 2/3, ¾, etc… of each England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland; or

3.  Similar to #2 above, but it will also include multiple designated regions of    England (this way, London does not dominate the vote).

 

Being that amending a Constitution is more significant than a mere referendum, it should require more than a simple majority to make said amendment.  Otherwise, actually placing a proposed Constitutional amendment on the ballot would be similar to the proposal on People’s Referendum. 

 

Debra Storr Apr 5, 2015

under federal structures 2 (or 3) would certainly be necessary 

John Z Apr 5, 2015

Agreed,  We wouldn't want the southeast of the UK dominating the debate.  As long as each England, Wales, Scotland, and North Ireland have an equal 1/4 voice, option #2 above should suffice.  Because if begin to carve up England into regions, then maybe Scotland will want to be carved up too.  (After all, how much do the Highlands have in common with people from Glasgow)? 

Rob G Apr 5, 2015

But between them, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland account for less than 1/6 of the total population of the UK. Even speaking as a Welshman, it seems a tad unfair for that 1/6 to have 3/4 of the voting weight. It might be appropriate for the three nations acting in concert to be able to veto a constitutional amendment, even if there's a majority overall. But it would surely be wrong for them to be able to impose an amendment on a reluctant 5/6 of the country.

Personally, I'm in favour of English regions having their say, but I was surprised to discover quite a lot of opposition to the idea on here. I do worry that this may prove to be an insoluble problem that may yet lead to the breakup of the country.

John Z Apr 5, 2015

There is precedent for regions of different population having equal weight.  In the US Senate, each State has 2 US Senators.  Therefore, the State of Wyoming (which has a population of 584,000) has the same number of US Senators as California (with a population of 38 million).  Mathematically, that is about a 76 times difference in population, yet they have equal power in the US Senate.  So your Wales example is nothing compared to the Wyoming example.

Rob G Apr 5, 2015

Given the call for "English Votes for English Laws", and the commonly prevailing view that England is already hard done by, I'm not sure what appetite there would be for such a provision at this time...

John Z Apr 5, 2015

Presently under my proposal, England is 1/4 of the vote of the UK.  If England is carved up into seven regions (Anglo Saxon Kingdoms), then each English region would be 1/7 of the English vote and 1/10 of the UK vote;  thus, the English region vote would be diluted even further.

Rob G Apr 5, 2015

Well, if the threshold were set at 8 votes, you'd need England +  1 other nation, or 2 nations and 6 of the 7 regions of England, or 5 regions of England + the 3 nations. England couldn't decide on its own, but nor could the other nations "frustrate the united voice of England" unless all three agree.

Not sure it's perfect, good job we have a couple of weeks to work these things out! ;-)

John Z Apr 5, 2015

The problem with that is that a united England would prevail over the other 3 nations combined.  That is why I prefer the version in which each is 1/4 of the vote.  It works well in the US Senate;  and as mentioned above, the Wales to England ratio is much smaller than the Wyoming to California ratio.  Moreover, Wyoming has very little in common with California. 

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Daniel Gaunt Apr 5, 2015

I'd favour something akin to the USA, where amendments have to be ratified by most/all states to be adopted. In that respect I'd suggest a requirement for a simple majority in every region of the UK. This would be much more onerous than a simple majority, works irrespective of the size of individual regions, and prevents the interest of one region (England or the South East say) from trumping those of others by virtue of their larger population. 

John Z Apr 5, 2015

As far as England, the southeast would dominate due to the population (although the entirety of England is 1/4 of the UK).  Would you carve up England, or keep it as one?  I'm in favor of keeping it as one. 

Daniel Gaunt Apr 5, 2015

As a Northerner, I'd prefer something which divides England up into regions. London is no more representative of my views than Scotland or Wales.

John Z Apr 5, 2015

But then that may open the door to the Scots raising the same argument, that northerners have nothing in common with southerners.  (Aberdeen actually has a strong argument, in that they are geographically closer to Oslo Norway than to London;  and perhaps culturally closer to Oslo as well). 

If England were to be carved up, that may become a deal-killer, because there are no true defined regions of England;  perhaps we use the original seven Anglo Saxon Kingdoms PLUS London as a separate region?  But those seven Anglo Saxon kingdoms may not be balanced equivalently regarding the population, which will itself cause an imbalance within England.    

Rob G Apr 5, 2015

Oddly enough, the historian Tom Holland has called for "Progressive Heptarchy" on exactly that basis :)

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Debra Storr Apr 5, 2015

I'll hand you Orkney, Shetland and perhaps also the Western Isles As stronger doubters of a Scotlabd only identity - and the is partly recognised already.  

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John Z Apr 5, 2015

But anywhere you go, there will be different regions with different political/philosophical beliefs.  Even in London, Chelsea and Kensington are very different from East London;  arguably, they can be different regions.  For the sake of consistency and minimizing dissent, the regions should be defined by their current borders (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). 

Debra Storr Apr 5, 2015

Scotland is a nation not a region.  

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John Z Apr 5, 2015

There are regions within Scotland.  But yes, the 4 nations are the borders I am referring to.

Alastair Bruton Apr 5, 2015

I'm in favour of John's option 1 which leaves regions out altogether. That seems entirely appropriate since what's being amended is the British constitution not the constitution of the component nations and regions. I couldn't be more strongly in favour of regional governments (among which I include the recently created governments in Wales, Scotland and NI), but if Britain is to stay together, it's vitally important that there are times when voters are expected to think of themselves as British and to vote in the collective national interest.

I agree that more that a simply majority should be required - 2/3rds seems the right proportion. But should anything be said about turnout? And should there be a provision (as the French have)  for amendment via a two thirds majority in both houses of parliament?

John Z Apr 5, 2015

I would say that the percent required is of actual votes cast, as opposed to (for example) 2/3 of each nations' population.

Alastair Bruton Apr 5, 2015

John's post here about Amending the Constitution overlaps with a rather broader post of mine entitled Procedure for the establishment and amendment of the constitution at https://constitutionuk.com/post/87472 which has also been voted through. Maybe the moderators could explain how they intend to deal this sort of situation which must be happening quite a lot now that we've moved on to the refining stage. But in any case, I'd love to hear what people think about how the constitution could be entrenched to make it more secure than a law which is passed and could be repealed by a simple parliamentary majority.

Ian Smith Apr 6, 2015

Dear All,

The idea 'Voting in a New Constitution" also overlaps with this idea as we will need to work out whether the constitution has the same rule for introduction of a whole new constitution as for amendments to any existing constitution. 

Perhaps we can come up with some suggestions as to how to ensure that we have a joined up approach on all of this?  Obviously the 3 idea generators will have their views but it would be interesting to have the views of others.

Kind regards

ian

 

 

 

Daniel Regan Apr 16, 2015

Hi all,

I think that the best way to deal with ideas that are similar or overlap is to vote up the idea that you prefer and vote down the one you like least. This will give the community a clearer idea of which idea is most popular and then we can work to refine the most popular idea.

John Z Apr 17, 2015

How is this:

"The Constitution may be amended by either:  1)  a people's referendum in which 2/3 or more of the registered voters of each England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland vote for an amendment, or,  2) if the majority of Parliament votes to put a proposed Constitutional amendment on the ballot, then it will require 2/3 or more of the registered voters of each England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland vote for an amendment".

So whether the people initiate an amendment OR whether Parliament initiates it, ultimately the people will vote on it.  

Daniel Gaunt Apr 17, 2015

First - the means of proposing an amendment are irrelevant in the wording proposed. It's only relevant if the means of proposing lead to different procedures for determination. 

Second - we should be cautious about setting the threshold too high. I'm not if there has been any election in living memory, much less a referendum, when the 2/3 threshold has been reached (edit: having checked, quite a number have previously achieved this, though I'd still feel it's too high). I agree that 50%+1 would probably be too low, but I'd suggest 55% to 60% is more suitable. 

Third -  could probably be worded better to make clear it is threshold %+1 in each of the constituent countries, rather than as a combined figure. 

John Z Apr 17, 2015

As for your point 2- is 3/5 better?  Basically, it is 3/5 (60%) or 2/3 (66.67%).

As for your point 3, "2/3 or more" is essentially the same as "2/3 + at least 1".  But that can also be "3/5 or more" if most people wish it to be that.

Daniel Gaunt Apr 17, 2015

For point three - what I mean is that it should be clear that it needs %+1 in England and %+1 in Wales and %+1 in Scotland and %+1 in Northern Ireland, rather than %+1 in the country as a whole.

With 80+% of the population, an emphatic English vote for could easily outweigh equally emphatic votes against from the other three.

John Z Apr 17, 2015

Yes, we don't want an England-dominant vote.  That is why I wrote the word "each" in the sentence ending "...it will require 2/3 or more of the registered voters of each England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland vote for an amendment".    Perhaps I should put the word "and" between each nation, so it should read "...it will require 2/3 or more of the registered voters of each England and Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland vote for an amendment".

How is that?

Daniel Gaunt Apr 18, 2015

How about:

The Constitution may be amended by a vote of the electorate of the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For amendments to be adopted they must ratified through a referendum in which more than 60% of the voters in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vote in favour of the amendment.

Government shall legislate to establish procedures for proposing amendments to the Constitution, which shall include a route for amendments to be proposed by members of the public.

John Z Apr 18, 2015

comment removed

Daniel Gaunt Apr 18, 2015

Ignore - missed comment below!

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John Z Apr 18, 2015

Actually, I retract that last comment, you did state that there is a mechanism for the public to initiate an amendment.

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